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Patrick Finucane: Supreme Court Judgment

Volume 808: debated on Wednesday 2 December 2020


The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Monday 30 November.

“The murder of Patrick Finucane on 12 February 1989 in front of his family was an appalling crime that has caused tremendous suffering. It occurred during a difficult and dark period in this nation’s history, which brought untold pain to many families across the United Kingdom and, indeed, Ireland.

Northern Ireland has made massive strides since the Belfast/Good Friday agreement to create a vibrant, inclusive and forward-looking future. However, the legacy of the Troubles for many still hangs like a shadow over society. This Government are determined to work hand in hand with the people of Northern Ireland from all communities, with victims and survivors, and with our Irish partners. We want to find a way to bring truth and reconciliation where there is currently hurt, and where too many people continue to suffer due to the absence of information about the circumstances of the deaths of their loved ones.

It is plain that the levels of collusion in the Finucane case, made clear by previous investigations, are totally unacceptable. Former Prime Minister David Cameron rightly apologised publicly in 2012, and I unreservedly repeat that apology today. I also acknowledge that an apology cannot undo history, and nor can it alleviate the years of pain that the Finucane family have felt. It is none the less right that this Government acknowledge that, at the height of the Troubles, actions were taken that fell far short of what can and should be expected.

The murder of Patrick Finucane has been the subject of a considerable number of investigations and reviews, including the Stevens 3 investigation and the de Silva review. These investigations led to the conviction of Ken Barrett, a loyalist terrorist who pled guilty to the murder.

In February 2019, the Supreme Court made a declaration that the state had not discharged its obligation to conduct an Article 2-compliant investigation into the death of Mr Finucane. That judgment specifically set out that it is for the state to decide what form of investigation, if indeed any is now feasible, is required in order to meet that requirement. It did not order a public inquiry, but in considering all the options open to me to meet the state’s obligations under Article 2, I have considered whether a public inquiry would be the most appropriate step to address the specific findings of the courts at this time.

I have, this afternoon, spoken to the Finucane family. I advised them of my decision not to establish a public inquiry at this time. Our public statement, published this afternoon, set out the considered rationale for this decision, which I will now explain directly to the House.

In reaching its conclusion, the Supreme Court identified a number of issues with previous investigations in this case. First, there was no identification of the officers within the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Security Service and Secret Intelligence Service who failed to warn Patrick Finucane of known threats to his life in 1981 and 1985, together with the circumstances in which these failures occurred. Secondly, there was no identification of the RUC officers who, as Desmond de Silva said, probably did propose Mr Finucane as a target for loyalist terrorists in December 1988. Thirdly, there was no identification of the police source who provided intelligence about Patrick Finucane to Ken Barrett.

The Supreme Court identified these shortcomings and other failures of process, but it did not render the previous reviews and investigations, which resulted in significant findings and information being released into the public domain, null and void. The work conducted by, and the findings of, those previous independent investigations and reviews remain valid. The state’s Article 2 obligations can be met through a series of processes taken by independent authorities on the initiative of the state, which, cumulatively, can establish the facts and identify the perpetrators and hold them to account where sufficient evidence exists.

In June 2019, an independent review of previous investigations was commissioned by my right honourable friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley). The first purpose of this review was to gain a clear understanding of what investigative steps had already been taken to identify all individuals of concern. Its second purpose was to understand the actions taken as part of previous investigations in respect of these individuals. The review was conducted by independent counsel from Northern Ireland. It highlighted that steps had in fact been taken during previous investigations which had not been considered by the Supreme Court but which were relevant to the issues it identified. For example, it found that a number of officers from the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Army’s force research unit had been interviewed as part of the Stevens investigation, and that Stevens accepted that there was no direct breach of policy by any individual officer at the time. As my right honourable friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) stated in 2011, accepting that collusion occurred is not sufficient in itself.

The Government recognise the need to ensure sufficient levels of public scrutiny of critical investigations and their results. I am today publishing further information that was considered by the independent counsel in its review since the Supreme Court judgment, some of which has not previously been released into the public domain. That includes information pertaining to a Police Service of Northern Ireland review conducted in 2015.

As set out in the 2015 police review, a number of issues were referred to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland in 2016, and also remain subject to investigation. In addition, the legacy investigation branch of the PSNI informed my department on 2 November 2020 that Patrick Finucane’s case is shortly due to undergo a process of review in accordance with the priorities set out in its case sequencing model. The chief constable confirmed that that is expected to begin early in the new year.

To be clear, this is a purely operational police matter. The UK Government, rightly, have no role whatsoever in determining how or when the police deal with their outstanding legacy caseload. However, the fact that a decision on a police review is due shortly is an important development and was a factor in determining the next steps in this case. Critically, a review would consider whether further investigative steps could be taken in this case and whether the PSNI should do this—these were key elements of the Supreme Court judgment. It is, quite properly, for the chief constable of the PSNI to determine the precise scope and format of any review, in accordance with their own priorities and review procedures, and the police have indicated that they expect that any review would need to be conducted independently of the PSNI. Such a process, in addition to the ongoing investigations being conducted by the police ombudsman, can play an important role in addressing the issues identified by the Supreme Court. I want to be clear: I am not taking the possibility of a public inquiry off the table at this stage. It is important that we allow the PSNI and police ombudsman processes to move forward, and that we avoid the risk of prejudicing any emerging conclusions from their work. I will then consider all options available to me to meet the Government’s obligations.

I assure the House that this decision has been taken following careful consideration of the facts, the findings of the Supreme Court judgment, the outcome of the independent counsel review and the United Kingdom’s obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This Government have demonstrated that, when the public interest requires it, we will establish public inquiries to look at any potential failings by government or state bodies, as, for example, we have done in the case of the Manchester bombing. In this instance, I believe it is in the public interest to allow the police and ombudsman processes to proceed before taking any decision on whether the state’s Article 2 obligations have been discharged or whether further steps are required.

This case, it has to be said, is, sadly, just one example of the violence and tragedy experienced by so many individuals and families across Northern Ireland, the rest of the United Kingdom and indeed Ireland during the Troubles. That is why, as a Government, we remain committed to dealing with the legacy of the past in its entirety. We are determined to get this right, working closely with communities. This is vital, so that society in Northern Ireland can look beyond its divisive past and towards a shared future. I commend this Statement to the House.”

My Lords, I first take a moment to pay tribute to Brian Kerr, Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore, whose death was announced by the Lord Speaker in your Lordships’ House earlier today. I am sure that the whole House will want to pay tribute to him and, on behalf of our Benches, I thank him for his service on the Supreme Court and as the Lord Chief Justice for Northern Ireland. The whole House will offer its condolences but I also offer my personal condolences to his family and friends. His membership of the Supreme Court and judgments in the Finucane case are relevant today.

I appreciate that our way of working now means that Ministerial Statements are not repeated in your Lordships’ House. I understand why, but today in particular it would have been helpful for the House to have heard the words from the Secretary of State before we started on questions.

Few of us can even imagine the unspeakable horror of losing a loved one in a bloody and violent attack. During the euphemistically named Troubles, over 3,500 people lost their lives in Northern Ireland, many thousands more were injured and so many today continue to carry the physical and mental scars of that time. The 1989 murder of Pat Finucane is horrific. As he sat down at home for a meal with his family, he was shot 14 times by the Ulster Defence Association, the UDA. His wife Geraldine was also injured. Since then, the Finucane family have sought the full and complete truth about his murder and how it came about.

As a former Northern Ireland Victims Minister, I met many victims, cross-community, who had suffered and survived in different ways. Of all the ministerial posts and positions that I held, this was the one that had the greatest impact on me personally. I can still vividly recall the details of discussions and conversations —it is many years ago now—with individual victims and survivors. I had only to listen but they lived with the consequences each and every day. If there was one thread that ran through so many of those conversations, it was the search for the truth. Time and again, in different circumstances and from different sides of the community, I would hear that they wanted to know what had really happened. Why had their loved ones died in this way? Why had they been singled out? How could this have happened? As many in your Lordships’ House will know, the truth can be difficult and painful, but the dignity, sadness and perseverance of those families in that search for truth was humbling.

The truth can also be difficult for the Government. I welcome the repeat of David Cameron’s apology in the Minister’s Statement. It was genuinely made and it is right for it to be repeated. Mr Cameron was also correct when he said that it was not enough. For the Finucane family, the search for truth—the whole truth—continues. The Statement, however, is a bitter blow to them.

There have been several inquiries, including that by Sir Desmond de Silva, who found that there were “shocking levels” of state collusion. He concluded in his report that:

“I am left in significant doubt as to whether Patrick Finucane would have been murdered by the UDA in February 1989 had it not been for the different strands of involvement by elements of the state”.

That report was, and still is, absolutely devastating.

In a further attempt for a full public inquiry, Geraldine Finucane took the case to the Supreme Court, and the Minister’s Statement recognises that the Supreme Court in its judgment held that

“Mrs Finucane did have a legitimate expectation that there would be a public inquiry into Mr Finucane’s death”,

but Lord Kerr added that the Government had not taken decisions in bad faith or without genuine policy grounds but—and this is the part of the judgment that the Government have failed to adequately address in the Statement—the Supreme Court makes

“a declaration that there has not been an article 2 compliant inquiry into the death of Patrick Finucane”.

Article 2 of our Human Rights Act is the right to life.

The Secretary of State outlined and clearly understands the reason why the Supreme Court came to that decision. But he appears to take the view that the three steps he outlined in the Statement could—and I repeat could—mean that the Government have fulfilled their obligations under Article 2 as outlined by the Supreme Court. Just to recap, the steps were, first, the information from the review announced by the Secretary of State in 2009, the current PSNI review and the review of the police ombudsman, which, if I have understood correctly, is dealing with issues referred to it in 2016. But then, if you read the rest of the Statement, you see that the Government are not convinced that is the case, because the Secretary of State says that he told the Finucane family that he would not establish a public inquiry “at this time”.

I know these things take time, and I know how difficult they are but, given that phrase the Secretary of State used in the House of Commons, about not having an inquiry “at this time”, could the Minister say when he thinks the Government think it would be right to do so? What is preventing the Government seizing the opportunity now? I think the Minister has to understand that this issue will not go away until everyone is satisfied that the full story and the full truth has been told.

My Lords, I too would like to thank the Minister for repeating the Statement this evening, but share the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, that it would perhaps have been better if he was able to do it in person. From these Benches, I also pay tribute to the Finucane family, and particularly to Geraldine—Patrick Finucane’s widow—who have all endured so much since his brutal murder in 1989. My heart truly goes out to them for what they must have had to endure over these past 31 years.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland’s announcement two days ago is as regrettable as it is concerning. As the Minister knows, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, has said this evening, the UK Supreme Court has stated that none of the previous investigations into the murder of Patrick Finucane met the required human rights standards. He will equally know that the Law Society of Northern Ireland yesterday expressed its concern about the decision at this time not to establish a public inquiry into his murder.

The approach announced by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will not provide for witnesses and documents to be compelled, as would have been the case under a full public inquiry. Can the Minister say how he believes this decision is compatible with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the necessary requirements for independence? This unfortunate decision is compounded by the sidelining of the Stormont House agreement that would do so much to provide a more holistic approach for all victims of the Troubles.

We are also facing continued delay to implementing the commitments to legacy, as set out in the New Decade, New Approach agreement. Can the Minister tell the House when he believes we will see an announcement on taking forward those proposals on legacy? Apologies, although welcome, are not enough. A public inquiry would do much to help both the Finucane family and the wider community get to the truth and find some closure. It is therefore some consolation that a future public inquiry has not been entirely ruled out. Patrick Finucane’s case raises serious questions about the rule of law, actions of the state and accountability. The Government’s decision raises serious public interest issues. I hope they will reflect on this and reconsider their decision.

My Lords, I echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith: I am very sorry to hear today that the former Justice of the Supreme Court, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Kerr, sadly died earlier this week. I thank him for his service, and I give my condolences to his family.

I also agree with the noble Baroness that it would have been better if the procedures of the House allowed me to repeat the Statement, particularly on a subject that is so serious and important. It is often better that that is the case and I think this is one of those cases, so I completely agree with her points there.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, the Leader of the Opposition, and the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, for their statements. I state unequivocally that the murder of Patrick Finucane was an appalling crime, as the noble Baroness said. It caused tremendous suffering to all his family and to his wife Geraldine, as with so many other events that occurred during the Troubles and for so many other families from all communities across Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The Government are clear that the shocking levels of collusion made clear by previous investigations are totally unacceptable. The former Prime Minister, David Cameron, apologised publicly for that in 2012, as the noble Baroness said. This afternoon I echo the words of the Secretary of State in the other place on Monday by reiterating that apology today. I am very aware of the service and experience that the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, has had in Northern Ireland, and I listened carefully to what she said. She is right: at the end of the day, whether it is the dreadful murder of Patrick Finucane or any other murder, it is essential to get to the bottom of what actually happened.

I want to take a step back by saying that, over the years, as the noble Baroness said, the murder of Patrick Finucane has been the subject of a considerable number of investigations and reviews, including the three Stevens investigations and the de Silva review. As is well known, those investigations led to the conviction of Ken Barrett, a loyalist terrorist who pleaded guilty to the murder.

Then, jumping well ahead, in February 2019 the Supreme Court made a declaration that the state had not discharged its obligation to conduct an Article 2- compliant investigation into the death of Mr Finucane. That judgment specifically set out that:

“It is for the state to decide … what form of investigation, if indeed any is now feasible, is required in order to meet that requirement”,

but it did not specifically order a public inquiry.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, said, following the 2015 police review of the de Silva report, a number of issues arose; they were referred to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and remain subject to investigation. On 2 November 2020, the Northern Ireland Office was informed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland that Pat Finucane’s case was shortly to undergo a process of review, expected to begin early in the new year. I want to clarify that both those processes are independent of government.

I hope I can give some reassurance to both noble Baronesses that, having considered all the options open to him to meet the state’s obligations under Article 2, the Secretary of State has concluded that at this time it is right to let the upcoming PSNI review process and the ongoing police ombudsman investigations move forward before making a further assessment of whether any further steps should be taken. The Government are clear that we are not taking the possibility of a public inquiry off the table at this time, as the noble Baroness said, but we wish to see the processes conclude.

To answer a question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, concerning the breach of Article 2, the Government have acknowledged the Supreme Court finding that there is yet to be an Article 2-compliant investigation into the death of Mr Finucane, and we acknowledge that there has been some delay in setting out the way forward. However, I say again that we believe the two-pronged approach of allowing those two investigations to progress is the right way forward at this time.

We now come to the 20 minutes allocated for Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief so that I can call the maximum number of speakers.

My Lords, over 3,500 people were murdered, many butchered to death in the cruellest fashion, and tens of thousands were injured and scarred for life. Every murder, including that of Pat Finucane, is to be unreservedly condemned. Coming from a family whose loved ones were also murdered, I know the pain and heartache caused to the family circles. Everyone is equal under the law and equally subject to it, but the Finucane case, as it has been presented, places his family in a class of its own—a hierarchy of victimhood.

Is the Finucane case the only one in which the claim of collusion has been made? If not, what makes it different to others? Is it that it is regarded as high profile because of its political backing from pro-republican sources across Europe and America? Does this mean that the well-connected republican elite have a right to a different kind of justice to others? Is this what justice has really come to? If so, those with highly ranking political connections are treated preferentially, the ordinary citizen really does not stand a chance.

Can the Minister detail to the House the number of investigations which have already been carried out in the Finucane case? Can he say how many millions of pounds have been spent on it and compare that to the expenditure on investigations endeavouring to give answers to the families of those burned alive at La Mon and of the eight innocent workmen brutally murdered at Teebane, not forgetting the IRA atrocities carried out at Enniskillen and Kingsmill, to name but a few? The decision made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is the right one, if justice is to be equal.

I agree that the Finucane murder was particularly dreadful and high profile. We should never forget it, but it would be wrong to make comparisons with other dreadful crimes that took place. We are adamant that the right way forward is to make progress in dealing with the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland. I reassure the House that this remains a high priority for the Government. We remain committed to bringing forward legislation as soon as possible because we want information recovery and reconciliation to be at the heart of a revised legacy system that is fair and proportionate and delivers for victims from all communities. As part of this, we will engage closely with the Northern Ireland parties on proposals in the near future. It is important that we listen to a wide range of voices on this to find a way through. The point is that we need to look forwards, not backwards, while equally looking at the legacy of the past.

My Lords, I declare an interest in that, from 2010, when the new Government inherited a complete impasse, to 2019 I participated in every key meeting on the Finucane case and helped to draft David Cameron’s statement in 2012. On that basis, I assure my noble friend that the announcement made by the Secretary of State on Monday is the right one. It has my full support and is entirely consistent with the requirements set out in the Supreme Court judgment.

This was a vile murder for which there was no justification, as with many thousands of others in Northern Ireland over the period of the Troubles. Does my noble friend agree that the right approach to legacy is not having highly selective, one-sided, open-ended and costly public inquiries but establishing mechanisms which have broad community support and the potential to offer better outcomes for all those who lost loved ones in the Troubles? David Cameron was right to say that collusion is always wrong, but we should never forget that the vast majority of those who served in Northern Ireland in the RUC and the Armed Forces did so with exemplary professionalism, integrity and bravery.

I acknowledge the experience of my noble friend and all the time he has spent dealing with Northern Irish matters. I assure the House that this decision has been taken following very careful consideration of the facts, the findings of the Supreme Court judgment, the outcome of the independent counsel review, and the UK’s obligations under Article 2. It is important to remember that the Supreme Court judgment did not mandate a public inquiry, as I said earlier, and it specifically set out that it is for the state to decide.

On another question that he raised, there is no doubt that the collusion identified in this case is, as I said earlier, totally unacceptable. But we must also be clear about the high standards that almost all those who serve in our Armed Forces adhere to, performing in incredibly difficult circumstances to protect this country. So many people from both the Armed Forces and the security services give so much to protecting us, in Northern Ireland and across the UK. Finally, we agree that finding a way forward on legacy that works for all victims is a priority.

My Lords, the issue that runs through this particular case and the differing opinions about it is one of double standards. The vast majority of victims have no lobby groups working on their behalf and their cases are barely mentioned. In this particular case, there was collusion; that has been admitted. Why is it that this collusion is clearly an issue for the Irish Government, when the fact that, in the 1970s, senior Cabinet Ministers were involved in the creation, financing, equipping and training of the Provisional IRA is never mentioned? Other legal figures were killed in Northern Ireland, including several elected members of my own party, such as Edgar Graham, Robert Bradford and a number of councillors. There appears to be a different stream for people with big political connections, in the United States in particular, and the rest—the majority—of the victims, who are left to stew in their juice. Why is there no focus on the involvement of the Irish Government, and an apology sought from them as well as from our own?

I have said it before and I will say it again: collusion is totally unacceptable, and this was made clear by David Cameron back in 2012. We believe that the way forward is to allow the independent reviews of the PSNI and the ombudsman to follow their course. To perhaps reassure the noble Lord, as the Secretary of State said on Monday, some new information is being published today from two sources—the 2015 PSNI review, or the de Silva report, and the government-commissioned review by the independent counsel. The new information will, we hope, through the independent reviews, lead to some progress. It includes the failure to identify RUC security services and secret intelligence services officers who failed to warn Patrick Finucane of threats to his life, and the failure to identify RUC officers who probably proposed Patrick Finucane as a target, and I could go on. This is part of the decision to allow these two independent reviews to run their course.

My Lords, I support the Government in their decision in this case. The murder of Pat Finucane in 1989 has been, and should be, condemned as wrong and wicked. So too are the murders of all innocent victims, in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. There have been other, all too often forgotten, judges, lawyers and family members murdered by the IRA, whose brutal murders Sinn Féin—which is very prominent in this case—and its fellow travellers refused to condemn. Indeed, it still eulogises and glorifies their terrorist killers.

We should remember resident magistrate William Staunton, murdered in 1972; Judge Rory Conaghan, murdered in 1974; resident magistrate Robert McBirney, murdered in 1974; Judge William Doyle, murdered in 1983; Mary Travers, murdered in an attack on her father, Tom Travers, as he left church in 1984; Lord Justice of Appeal Maurice Gibson and his wife Cecily, murdered in a savage attack in 1987; the dear family Robin and Maureen Hanna and their six-year-old son David, murdered in an attempt to kill High Court Justice Higgins in July 1988; and Edgar Graham, who has been mentioned by the noble Lord previously, a human rights barrister, law lecturer and Assembly man, murdered in December 1983. Sadly, these dear people do not receive the same attention, concern, calls for inquiry or media coverage. Their families, too, deserve to know who planned and colluded in their murders. We remember them also this evening.

Indeed. The noble Lord read out, powerfully, a list of not only those who were caught up in the Troubles but those who were murdered. This is exactly what we want to do in looking forward and finding solutions. Those solutions have to deliver for victims, whose families need to find out what happened to the loved ones whom they lost during the Troubles. I say again that we are committed to bringing forward legislation that focuses on reconciliation, delivers for the victims, as I have said, and ends the cycle of reinvestigations into the Troubles in Northern Ireland that has failed victims and veterans alike. We need to look forward.

My Lords, of course every murder is to be condemned, whenever it happened, and I share the concern that the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, expressed about the horrible murders that he mentioned. But before us is the issue of justice and decency for the Finucane family. The Minister said that the PSNI was one way forward and that the police ombudsman was the other way forward. Is he aware that the chief constable said that there were no new lines of inquiry and that the police were reluctant to be involved because they would not be seen as independent in this matter? For all the good work that the police ombudsman does, she does not have the resources for the sort of full public inquiry that the Finucane family is asking for and which I think would be the right way forward in this case.

I am certainly aware of that element in the statement from the PSNI. Perhaps I may say two things. First, we are adamant that the way forward is to allow the PSNI review process to run its course. Secondly, I think that the noble Lord will be aware that the chief constable has said that, in order to be quite clear that the review is independent, it is likely that an independent force, beyond him, will be asked to take this forward. It is also important to say that the indications are that the PSNI review will start very soon in the new year, although it is up to the PSNI to decide on all other aspects, including the timings of the review.

My Lords, at the outset, I say that all murder in Northern Ireland is wrong. Some of those opposed to a public inquiry into the Pat Finucane murder use the spurious argument that it would be unfair to favour the Finucane family over other victims’ families, thus creating a hierarchy of victims. However, does the Minister agree that the requirement for a public inquiry here goes well beyond seeking justice for the family, in that it is essential for all citizens in the whole of the UK, and not just in Northern Ireland, to know the truth of the central role that their Government played in this level of collusion, which has already been referred to and acknowledged by the former Prime Minister, David Cameron? As we know, the PSNI and the police ombudsman stated earlier this week that they are not ready to carry out such work because of issues to do with resources.

I hear what the noble Baroness says. I reiterate what the Secretary of State said on Monday, which is that, with so much history of all the reviews that have taken place since the dreadful murder in 1989, it has made sense at this time to look at what we know now. On the noble Baroness’s comments about public inquiries, the Government have demonstrated that, when the public interest requires it, we will establish public inquiries to look at potential failings by government or state bodies. As she will know, we have done so in the case of the Manchester bombing. However, I reiterate that it is right that we allow the police and the ombudsman processes to proceed before taking a decision on whether further steps are required.

My Lords, there can be no doubt that grounds exist for establishing a public inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane. An inquiry should be established because the matter is related to state collusion, leading to the murder, and there are major unanswered questions. As noble Lords know, both the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland have said they have no ongoing work in relation to the murder. The work of the police ombudsman, which was referred as a consequence of de Silva, relates to other terrorist murders carried out in Northern Ireland. When I was police ombudsman, I knew that I could not investigate matters surrounding the murder of Patrick Finucane because I did not have the powers. That continues for the current police ombudsman. She can only investigate the activities of police officers. She has no remit to investigate, with a view to prosecution, loyalist paramilitaries, the staff of the Ministry of Defence or the Security Service—that is what is required in this case. Moreover, the police ombudsman does not have the resources to do the work she should be doing; she is grossly underresourced. Yet, as I found when I carried out my investigations, while the crime in question may have occurred decades ago, what emerges from the investigation may have implications for policing today. Do the Government have plans to provide further funding to the police ombudsman to allow her to discharge her statutory duties? It is not a matter of double standards, an inquiry for one and not for the other. It is a matter of learning from the wrongdoing of the past to enable the anti-terrorism work of today.

There are hundreds of unsolved murders, as noble Lords have said. The current system is not working. We urgently need the independent historical investigations unit, which has been promised. It must be properly resourced and needs to do the type of investigation carried out by Chief Constable Boutcher in Operation Kenova. This is not a matter on which the Government can delay; it is urgent. Can the Minister tell us when a new, independent, properly resourced, historical investigations unit will be established?

I am not able to give a timing for the historical unit. The noble Baroness has raised a number of questions and I have taken on board her views about the decision that has been made. I reassure her that funding for the PSNI is there. There is no issue over that funding or indeed for the ombudsman investigation. There is much to do; it is for both independent investigations to decide how they will progress, and it is up to them to let us know how they will do that. We have every confidence they will do the best job possible in looking at these matters.

I say at the outset that I agree entirely with the words of the Leader of the Opposition on the Labour Benches when she described the full horror of events in Northern Ireland, the losses involved and the particular case that we are dealing with today. One speaker asked what makes this case different, and others have alluded to the other horrifying killings in Northern Ireland and that there should not be a hierarchy regarding those losses and terrible deaths.

I want to make an argument that this case is different, because it goes straight to the heart of the rule of law. All murders are crimes against the people of a nation—there is no doubt about that. I remind people that the rule of law is not something to be easily dismissed, although the Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, was unfortunately the author of that famous statement that it might sometimes be possible to breach the rule of law and international treaty law in limited and particular ways. I remind the House that the rule of law should not be broken—and certainly not by the state.

There are two elements of the Finucane case that are important to all of us, as a society: here you had a lawyer, whose role is fundamental to the rule of law; and you had collusion by the state in his killing. You had one part of the state interfering with another—the rule of law, which is fundamental.

Thirty years ago, a special moment took place when the basic principles on the role of lawyers were adopted by the United Nations. In that same year, 1990, the International Bar Association also laid down principles connecting lawyers and their role to the rule of law. It said—

The independence of lawyers, and the opportunity for them to properly fulfil their function, should never be confused with the cases that they conduct. The lawyer is not to be identified by the authorities, or the public, with the client or the client’s cause, however popular or unpopular it may be. The killing of Pat Finucane was basically an assault on the legal system.

I will ask my question quickly. Does the Minister agree that the rule of law is fundamental and that the murder of Pat Finucane takes on particular significance because of the collusion of the state in it?

The rule of law is indeed fundamental. I take note of the points made by the noble Baroness about the Finucane murder. The decision that has been made was taken following very careful consideration of all the facts, the findings of the Supreme Court judgment, the outcome of the independent counsel review, and the United Kingdom’s obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

House adjourned at 6.37 pm.